Sunday night blaze destroys historical town rental house

45,000 gallons of  water, downed power lines and a gas leak

by Mark Reaman

A quick and big blaze Sunday night destroyed the historical “creek house” in the center of Crested Butte, leaving four people homeless and without the opportunity to salvage any of their possessions from the structure.

The Crested Butte Fire Protection District received a call at 9:04 p.m. and had people on the scene, located at 214 Maroon on the bank of Coal Creek behind the Eldo, within three minutes. Fire trucks were on site within 18 minutes. But the old wooden house was already totally engulfed in flames. The one person in the house at the time was sleeping but woke up, broke a bedroom window and got out on his own. He was taken to Gunnison Valley Hospital for observation for smoke inhalation and burns on his back. A dog that was in the home died in the fire.

According to CBFPD fire chief Ric Ems, 24 firefighters and two ambulance crews of three people responded to the fire that could be seen for miles around Crested Butte.

“We contacted the owner, Steve Church, and he is contacting his insurance company. They will send up an investigator to determine the cause but right now we don’t know why it started,” Ems said. “There are no suspicious circumstances. We are just glad everyone is okay.”

Some of the other residents of the house were out to dinner when the fire started.

“Given the extent of the fire upon arriving, the first truck tied into the fire hydrant in the alley behind Second Street and was dedicated to the structural protection of the buildings around the fire,” explained Ems. “The house itself was completely engulfed and obviously lost. We didn’t want the fire to spread.”

A second truck pulled water from the hydrant on Third Street by the Dogwood. “We had plenty of water and the town is figuring out how much we used,” said Ems.  It was calculated that 45,000 gallons was pulled from the town hydrants.

Firefighters were on site until about 2 a.m. when they turned the fire scene over to the marshals for security.

Ems said some nearby electrical power lines came down in the creek, so the fire district asked for assistance from the Gunnison County Electric Association to turn off the power. A gas meter was breached and caught fire as well until firefighters shut off the gas.

“Everyone should realize that there can be hazards way beyond the perimeter of the actual fire,” said Ems. “There are reasons we keep people away from the scene.”

Ems noted this was the fourth structure fire the CBFPD has responded to in 2015, along with a couple of kitchen fires.

“Let’s hope it’s the last one of the year,” he said. “And everyone should truly thank the volunteer firefighters and EMTs who showed up to help keep the community safe. The community should be very proud of its first responders.”

Ems also expressed appreciation for some local business owners who fired up their kitchens to make food for the volunteers late Sunday and into early Monday morning.

“And the general public was great, bringing us water and helping us put away equipment after the incident. We truly appreciate the support we get from the community,” he said.

What is left of the structure has been boarded up until the insurance investigation is complete.

Meanwhile, donations are being taken for the four men displaced as a result of the incident. Donations can be dropped off to the Secret Stash or Kochevar’s. There is also a Gofundme page set up for people who want to make a cash donation.

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